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Mainstream Contemporary Novelists: Only About the Money?

[Note: Today’s post is by Reneé, a junior in high school. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with our readers, Reneé!]

by flickr user keith ramsey
by flickr user keith ramsey

Since middle school, two of my best friends and I have shared the books we buy or borrow from the library. It is a pattern we follow to ensure that all of us read each book so we can discuss it without spoiling it for one another. Since each of us have different preferences, we read everything from classics to science fiction to advanced reader copies. I have found that the “mind-candy” novels we read (those that are sweet and pleasurable at first but really just rot your brain) are basically the same plot over and over again.

The first trend I noticed occurred when the Twilight saga became excessively popular. Like any curious eighth-grader, I read them and fell in love. That is, until the franchise led to the movies, and the fans became a bit disturbing to me. From then on, I denied ever being associated. But just after I read them, I suddenly noticed vampire novels everywhere! They started to overflow the shelves at my bookstore, with special signs that said “Vampire Romance” and even references on greeting cards. After the vampire craze calmed down, some authors decided to use a tidbit of imagination and started writing romances with other mythical creatures or others they had created. Again, it was “forbidden romance” or “witches” or “angels and demons and love, OH MY!” All these stories had the same plot lines over and over again, templates of whatever author’s story made big bucks.

The most recent trend is of totalitarian dystopias. The first series of that genre I read was Uglies in third or fourth grade. They were a bit confusing and disturbing, but I understood the warnings of vanity and “the price of beauty.” Others had their fifteen minutes of fame, but the real breakthrough was The Hunger Games. Despite a disappointing end, these novels skyrocketed through my school. When the movie was announced, cheers of excitement and groans of worry flew through the air. We had all seen what happened to Twilight and were not ready to have the same fate befall our beloved Hunger Games. So far they have remained respectable in society. But as with the paranormal romance explosion, visions of nuclear waste and controlled societies deck the halls of the bookstores. Personally, I have found them to be not at all revolting and quite enjoyable since the main plot is not a forbidden romance, but the examination of society. Even with the plethora of current social issues for authors to expand and dramatize, I find myself comparing the plots and not seeing much difference.

I feel as if these young adult novelists are denying their imagination and following the mainstream in order to make big bucks. One author has a lucky idea and everyone else copies, pastes and changes the names. They appear everywhere in cliché titles and garish covers. Only every now and then do I find a young adult novel actually enlightening and beneficial, sometimes of the current trend and sometimes completely hipster. These stories restore my faith in the contemporary novelist. Or could it be that, in comparing them to filth, they appear to be quite decent?

— Reneé S., 11th grade, Oxford High School, currently reading Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh

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